Our Digital Selves: Living Without the ‘Big 5’ — And 7,000 Others

There, once again, is the age-old privacy paradox, which predates our digital selves. Do we — individually, as a society, as a matter of policy — understand the data-for-value exchange that is inherent not just on the commercial Internet, but in practically every business arrangement we have?

our digital selves
Chet Dalzell snapped this photo with his smartphone’s camera. (Curses!) | Credit: Chet Dalzell

During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying a thorough attempt by one Gizmodo editor, Kashmir Hill, to live life one week at a time without the titled “Big 5” — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — and then to do so all at once.

“It was hell,” she reported.

Well, that statement alone could be interpreted as “unpleasant” or “impossible” or “really inconvenient” or “unenjoyable, or maybe all of the above. Hill’s attempts to quit cold turkey appeared to be very earnest and objectively pursued, though her editorial approach is not without a point of view: “The tech giants, while troubling in their accumulation of data, power and societal control, do offer services that make our lives a hell of a lot easier.”

Do I feel powerless with no control? I do not, but that’s a personal choice.

There, once again, is the age-old privacy paradox, which predates our digital selves. Do we — individually, as a society, as a matter of policy — understand the data-for-value exchange that is inherent not just on the commercial Internet, but in practically every business arrangement we have?

To shut off all data flows might be thought of as an exercise of a Luddite. Every individual can choose to live life this way, at least in some measure. Or perhaps it’s an exercise of being jaded: Among us, there are those who believe social media’s popular “10-year challenge” is a not-so-secret plot to update everyone’s likeness for facial recognition software.

Take a Regular Digital Break, Please

I, too, pursue and relish a weekend where I put my devices away, and go off the digital grid for hours or even one day at a time. A walk in the woods, or park, or beach, with no device in reach — and with just my thoughts – is an empowering and recharging experience (for me). It can drive my friends and family nuts, wondering where I am — but they’re used to it by this time.


“You didn’t play ‘Words with Friends’ with me yesterday. Is everything OK?”

On the other hand, every day, I observe fellow citizens who seem unable to navigate a sidewalk, or ride an elevator, or even sit at a bar or restaurant, without having their heads down in smartphones. Kudos to them for processing digital information constantly … I think. I certainly can’t do that.

Yet to have a bias — either in practice or in policy — that blocks responsible data flows, truly is an exercise in masochism. As participants in the marketing data supply chain, we have ethical and some legal obligations to be capable stewards of data. We have associations, self-regulatory codes, and regulators that teach and tell us what to do.

Beyond the Big 5, we also have thousands of companies in the adtech/martech ecosystem — at last count, nearly 7,000. Any could be the next “big thing,” as investment flows seem to indicate.

Image of Ad Tech - Mar Tech Breadth

Slide Source: “Outlook For Data Driven Marketing: First Look 2019,” The Winterberry Group, 2019.

On top of these, we have brands and agencies using information, responsibly, to attract (discover), create (convert) and retain (serve) customers. This is not evil. This is innovation — and we shouldn’t fault a data-flow framework that facilitates commerce, consumer choice and diversity of content. We should scrutinize it for harmful data usage — and regulate the harm.

In short, every information use should be vetted. Wisdom, rather than fear, must be our starting point in such examination, with a healthy dose of data reverence. In advertising, we can (and must) have both consumer privacy protection and digital innovation. Achieving such dual, laudable outcomes, however, cannot be achieved if we are required to just shut down.



The 10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

B2B marketing
Credit: Getty Images by pagadesign

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

Today, I am happy to introduce 10 of the many fascinating people I’ve interacted with during my adventures in 2018. All of them are high-energy contributors to the advancement of our field. And I’ve included a look-back shout-out to my fascinating contacts from 2017, 2016 and 2015.

  1. I’ve known Christopher Ryan, founder and CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, for years, but this one is a standout. Check out his new book, “The Expert’s B2B Revenue Growth Playbook.” It’s practical and action-oriented, with a zillion tips on how to build sales — enhance your website, choose your key metrics, develop compelling content and more. Chris even offers a free PDF copy.
  2. Samantha Stone’s energy and good humor seem single-handedly to keep the wheels of B2B marketing going. She’s everywhere, providing advisory services to marketers who are grappling with how to go to market in an increasingly complex world. Her website offers a treasure trove of resources to help the rest of us get a head start.
  3. Every year, Scott Brinker brings our attention to the growth of martech, with his famous Marketing Technology Landscape graphic — now clocking in at over 6,800 point solutions. He’s the insightful blogger of ChiefMarTech and program chair of the informative conferences. Great work, Scott!
  4. Shane Schick’s Toronto-based B2B News Network is a top source for up-to-the-minute news in our industry. In this world of disappeared media, Shane deserves a lot of credit for running a successful publishing business. I find his daily email newsletter one of the best around. Somehow, Shane also finds the time to blog for Cision.
  5. A few years ago, Dan Konstantinovsky took the reins at R.H. Blake, a small Cleveland agency serving the manufacturing industry. Since then, he has taken the lead in converting traditional industrial marketing into a modern marketing powerhouse.
  6. Talk about high energy. Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus and FlipMyFunnel, takes the cake. I was pleased to be invited to cover the conference this year, and shared a bunch of great ideas I picked up about ABM. With all that going on, how does Sangram also produce a daily podcast, I wonder?
  7. Jill Rowley, longtime martech sales leader (Salesforce, Marketo) and pioneer in the field of social selling, shared a big idea at the FlipMyFunnel conference. She envisions a day when B2B sales are transacted entirely through e-commerce, and the sales role will evolve to subject matter experts to buyers. “I have eliminated the word prospect from my vocabulary.” She says. Intriguing.
  8. Olle Leckne, a Stockholm-based LinkedIn advisor, has created a clever lead generation process for appointment-setting with highly refined audience targeting. His breakthrough: Measuring the time invested in generating and converting a lead, instead of response rates and media cost. The goal is to get a lead from hours down to minutes to set an appointment. The icing on the cake? Using GetAccept to track proposals as they make their way along the purchase path inside the prospective customer organization.
  9. Seattle-based Howard Sewell, president of Spear Marketing Group, consistently produces some of the best B2B marketing advice in the world. I am a subscriber to The Point, and recommend it to all my colleagues for its wisdom, clear thinking and actionable tips.
  10. Most B2B marketers already know Bob Bly, prolific author and sought-after copywriter. But this year, I am extra admiring of Bob because of his unique approach to Facebook. Instead of the throwaway comments the rest of us post, Bob uses the forum for thoughtful discussion of important and — dare I say, fascinating — topics. Always a joy to read and discuss.

Another great year in B2B marketing. Happy new year to all!

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

3 Trends Impacting Marketing and Marketing Technology

This is the year that more becomes less; marketers beware. I’ve put on my marketing and marketing technology prediction hat to share three trends with you.

This is the year that more becomes less; marketers beware. I’ve put on my marketing and marketing technology prediction hat to share three trends with you.

I would like to wish all my readers a happy 2019. At the beginning of this new year, I would like to test my powers and lay out some predictions. I believe (maybe hope?) this is the year that three long-overdue trends will impact marketers and marketing technology. In any case, I am going on the record; let’s see if I have egg on my face in December.

1. There Is Too Much Content Out There

In 2019, I hope we finally challenge the adage that “content is king.” Maybe a few years back it was king, but now there are too many claimants to the throne and too many smaller and smaller kingdoms. For example, just exploring all the great content on Netflix can take up several months of full-time viewing. Then there is HBO, Hulu, YouTube, etc. Maybe saying that content is a commodity would be taking things too far, but content is no longer king.

Having a better understanding of context and timing will be much more important. Delivering the right content at the right time, to the right person is the next king.

2. Marketers Will Finally Agree That Martech Is a Tool, Not a Strategy

Too many marketers have been confusing the latest marketing technology with customer strategy. Many times this misconception is fed by the solution providers themselves.

I believe that the right martech build can provide great dividends and represents an agile, data-driven platform to better engage with your customers. However, it will not make your customer engage with you. Customers have to like you and feel attachment to your brand for them to engage.

Before investing in additional martech, there are fundamental questions that must be addressed. Such as:

  • Why do customers want to engage with us?
  • What is the level of engagement that is reasonable to expect?

Too many times, I see marketers simply push for higher and higher engagement numbers, with no thought as to what is reasonable or sensible. If I gave each relevant brand in my life 15 minutes per week, I would not have time for anything else, In some cases, limited engagement is probably a good thing. For example, my local utility is very relevant in my life, but If I must engage with them, it is probably a bad sign.

3. A Major Shift in Consumerism — From More to Less

With so much content and so many products and services available, literally at the push of a button, many consumers will look to actively filter out products and services that have little or no meaning to them. For example, I recently took a hiatus from my Netflix subscription because I was no longer able to engage with the content. Netflix has really great content, but I am simply overwhelmed and the shows are all blending together. The (anti?) consumer trend of minimalism will be growing. While few consumers are likely to become minimalist, there will be a growing trend to ask the minimalist’s question before every purchase: “Will buying this really make me happier?”

Here’s Your Fortune, Marketers

I believe that 2019 will be the year we have a reckoning between a glut of supply and the inherent limits of our ability to consume. This conflict will not only play out in the B2C markets, but also within B2B markets; especially when it comes to marketing. Most senior marketers I have spoken to readily admit that they are horribly confused and overwhelmed by the marketing tech world. So many choices, so many overlapping solutions and each one claiming to be the “answer.”

In 2019, we need to start asking if we are worthy of the headspace we are asking of our customers and also how we manage our own headspace so that we can become better marketers.

3 Session Highlights for the 2018 FUSE Digital Marketing Summit: AI, Analytics, & How to Size Up Your MarTech Stack

The FUSE Digital Marketing Summit is quickly approaching. Subscribers to the FUSE Digital Marketing Newsletter should already have a sense of what we’ll be covering at the summit, but I just wanted to take a minute to highlight three key sessions that alone warrant marketers spending time attending the summit.

First, a little quick background on the summit:

Where & When: The FUSE Digital Marketing Summit will take place November 27 to 28 in Center City Philadelphia.

Why: With marketers constantly vetting, evaluating, and investing in new technology the two-day FUSE summit is designed to help marketers quickly identify and adopt the most relevant digital technologies. FUSE will dissect the modern martech stack and explore in-depth how the right technologies can enable marketers to achieve real business objectives.

Plus: FUSE Digital Marketing is a free, all-inclusive experience for qualified attendees — senior-level decision makers leading martech strategy and buying decisions. See if you qualify and learn more about the summit here.

Below are three general sessions attendees can look forward to. However, it’s worth noting the unique format of the FUSE summit – attendees will also participate in small-group boardroom case studies and have pre-scheduled 1-on-1 meetings with tech providers. And perhaps most valuable of all are the many networking opportunities with like-minded marketing executives.

3 Key Sessions at the 2018 FUSE Digital Marketing Summit

Keynote: Using AI & Deep Learning to Generate Marketing Results

In this eye-opening session, marketing AI practitioner and BrainTrust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn will explore how artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing marketing. Penn will cover what AI is – and isn’t – and what problems it’s good at solving versus the problems AI solves poorly. This session will use real-life marketing applications to illustrate how AI can elevate content marketing, lead targeting, conversion analysis, and business intelligence. And Penn will share his insight on what marketers need to do to prepare for an AI future.

Speaker: Christopher Penn, Co-Founder & Chief Innovator, BrainTrust Insights

How Do You Stack Up? Practical Advice for Constructing & Managing Your Marketing Tech Stack

In every industry, marketing technology stacks are growing in size and complexity as more products are deployed and integrated, and multiple teams throughout the organization embrace marketing technology in support of digital transformation initiatives. It’s not unusual to see companies using more than 100 different marketing tools at any one time. With a need to integrate many of those tools, building and managing the marketing technology stack has become a tremendous challenge for many organizations.

Leveraging the insights gleaned from hundreds of marketing technology stacks, this session will cover the technologies that companies are currently buying, and the hot technologies that they are looking to integrate into their stack.

Speaker: Anita Brearton, Founder & CEO, CabinetM

How the American Medical Association is Using Analytics to Grow Membership

Content marketing, digital marketing, and consumer marketing have converged to transform how organizations can interact with customers. As a digital change-agent for the past 20 years, Todd Unger, CXO of the American Medical Association, will show how he is transforming AMA’s marketing, using analytics tools to generate insights, quantify content marketing ROI and boost member acquisition and retention efforts.

Speaker: Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer/SVP Physician Engagement, American Medical Association

Check out the full summit agenda here.

3 Tips for Dealing With the Stress of MarTech-Driven Marketing

As a marketer in today’s data-driven world, it is very hard to keep your head on straight. With thousands of martech solutions in the market vying for your attention, combined with the pressure to make data-driven decisions and justify expenses, it is easy to become overwhelmed by martech-driven marketing.

As a marketer in today’s data-driven world, it is very hard to keep your head on straight. With thousands of martech solutions in the market vying for your attention, combined with the pressure to make data-driven decisions and justify expenses, it is easy to become overwhelmed by martech-driven marketing.

The result is a constant feeling that you are falling further and further behind. While that may be, it is also likely that you are in good company as this is a common anxiety among most marketers.

Here are three tips for dealing with the anxiety from tech-driven marketing.

Understand and Acknowledge the MarTech-Driven Marketing Landscape Is Needlessly Complex

It’s not your job to sort it out. There are thousands of martech solutions out there and you can’t/shouldn’t keep up with all of them.

If you did, you would hardly have time for your day job. It is better that you understand the technologies as broad capabilities (such as marketing automation, CRM, content management systems, etc.) then focus on determining if you need that capability and why.

Then carefully select vendors with that capability to work with on specific solutions.

Ignore the Noise and Get Back to Marketing Strategy

Too often, marketers are letting the marketing technology world dictate how strategy should be run.

For example, when discussing lead development strategy, I had a client tell me that their marketing automation vendor was looking into it. This is akin to having your building materials provider design your dream home. Some may offer basic design services, but the result is likely to be staid and semi-custom, at best.

Similarly, most martech companies do not want to be in the business of developing your marketing strategy, but they oftentimes are forced to do so in order to get you comfortable with leveraging their technology.

No one wins in this scenario, and what often results is a generic marketing strategy.

The key is to understand what broad martech capabilities are relevant for you and to build a custom go-to-market strategy that reflects your brand’s vision and purpose.

Then incorporate data-driven capabilities — and lastly, evaluate a specific solution.

Don’t Be a Slave to Your Data

I often hear marketers ask, “How can we better leverage all this data?”

This is like starting your holiday shopping by asking, “How can I leverage all of the available retailers out there?”

The more sensible questions should be: “What do I want to achieve and how can data help me get there?”

Then, look into your own data to determine if the relevant data is there. If it isn’t, don’t fret. Many times, the relevant data is cheap to generate, and you should begin to understand what it is you specifically need and how best to generate it.

Concluding Thoughts About Tech-Driven Marketing

After many years in consulting with Fortune 500 companies on marketing data and technology strategy, I can confidently tell you that the vast majority of marketers feel overwhelmed and not in control.

What I can also say is that most marketers do not struggle with what to do; rather, they struggle with what not to do.

With a torrent of marketing solutions available today, it is easy to lose focus. Successful marketers understand that martech solutions affect how you think about marketing and customer strategy execution. However, they also understand that smart, brand-centric strategies drive solution selection — not the other way around.

Why Capabilities Trump Skills in Digital Transformation

There are hundreds of skills a marketing department could need. The real question is, “What capabilities do we need in order to do digital marketing effectively?” By considering capabilities instead of unique skills, we turn digital transformation into 10 or 20 capabilities we must acquire instead of 200 skills. For CMOs this is the best approach for building the organization.

A CMO embarking on the digital transformation of their marketing department recently asked me to prioritize what skills they needed for their fast-growing company. The question reminded me of the time I asked my friend Dan Wolff, some 35 years ago, where exactly on a mogul (front, back, sides or top) I should be skiing in order to master the skill of mogul skiing. His answer was simple. “You are asking the wrong question.”

There are hundreds of skills a marketing department could need, from copy-writing for blogs, video editing, podcasting, data analysis, budget management and public relations all the way to campaign design. The answer would not have been apposite. The real question is, “What marketing capabilities do we need to acquire in order to do digital marketing effectively?”

“A capability is a unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes, and are what ultimately contribute to sustainable competitive advantage and superior performance.” (Day, 1994, link downloads the pdf). By considering capabilities instead of unique skills we can think about the problem in terms of 10 or 20 capabilities we must acquire instead of 200 skills. For CMOs this is the best approach for building the organization.

The Technology Capabilities You Need for Digital Transformation

For the sake of brevity let’s narrow the list of capabilities down to those related to technology, and ignore strategy, reporting and analytics, customer, content, people and process related capabilities. We will tackle more of the capabilities for building an effective marketing organization in future posts. Here are five core technology capabilities marketing will benefit from acquiring:

  1. Technology awareness is a marketing capability that identifies current and emerging technology that will help marketing achieve its objectives. It involves defining clear organizational needs, matching potential technology, educating team members as to potential benefits and formalizing a role to own this process.
  2. Revenue Marketing Architecture is the capability that defines the collection of software components that are combined into a service-oriented reference architecture that support marketing in achieving its objectives. It includes the proper integration and optimization of the components, enterprise process and workflow, and overall system governance.
  3. Planning, Selection and Implementation is the capability that defines the process for planning, selecting and implementing a Revenue Marketing Architecture. It includes conducting a proper evaluation and needs analysis, developing use cases and measuring performance.
  4. Vendor Management is the capability that maximizes vendor relationships and enables organizations to control costs, optimize technology, increase performance, drive service excellence and mitigate risks.
  5. Technology Adoption is the capability that ensures the adoption or acceptance of a Revenue Marketing Architecture that drives business results.   It includes communication, strategic planning, senior leadership commitment, project management, training and education and business process re-engineering.

Some might debate if these particular capabilities should live in marketing operations or in IT. There is no simple answer to this. For large organizations, where IT is focused on large initiatives, security, governance, data architecture at a corporate level, then it behooves marketing and sales to acquire their own technology capabilities. Keeping it close to marketing will enable the team to fully understand the business requirements and move with the agility that marketing requires. It does not obviate the need to work with IT on the integrations into other corporate systems and in adherence to defined standards for data, security, vendor selection, licensing terms etc.

Delivering on each of these capabilities requires certain skills, knowledge and experience. It may require multiple people just to deliver on a single capability and in other cases a single individual may bring two or more capabilities. The key is to focus on capability acquisition, and not simply hire people because they have desired skills. Contemplating digital transformation at the capability level also facilitates discussions around what to in-source versus what to out-source.

5 Steps to Acquire the Technical Capabilities

Steps to digital transformation by technology capability acquisition:

  1. Examine what you want to accomplish in becoming more proficient at digital marketing.
  2. Document the capabilities that this will take in technology, content creation, demand generation and reporting at a minimum.
  3. Consider if you can educate existing staff to help them provide these capabilities.
  4. If time or focus is of the essence, determine which capabilities can be outsourced temporarily or even permanently.
  5. Write the job descriptions and goals for the individuals in terms of the outcomes that will be delivered once the capability is in place. Look for people who have delivered these capabilities and outcomes before.

On a final note, I did learn to mogul ski. Dan’s advice that day stuck with me. He shared that the secret was to be able to ski anywhere and everywhere on a mogul. That skill enabled you to make each turn when it was due, regardless of where you were on a mogul. And isn’t that what agile marketing is all about, making rapid turns when they are due, because you have an effective capability to execute regardless of the environment?

How to Become a Marketing Unicorn

What does it take to succeed in marketing today? I recently had a chat with TD Bank CMO Patrick McLean about marketing’s changing roles, responsibilities and leadership. And he joked that at his bank, they’re looking for nothing less than “Marketing Unicorns.” Here’s what that means, and his advice on how to become a unicorn in your own career.

Patrick McLean Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank – America's Most Convenient Bank
Patrick McLean
Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank – America’s Most Convenient Bank

What does it take to succeed in marketing today? I recently had a chat with TD Bank CMO Patrick McLean about marketing’s changing roles, responsibilities and leadership. And he joked that at his bank, they’re looking for nothing less than “Marketing Unicorns.” Here’s what that means, and his advice on how to become a unicorn in your own career.

“I joke that we’re looking for unicorns in these roles,” said McLean. “We’re asking them to do a lot. We’re asking them to think strategically. We’re asking them to be sound fundamentally from an analytics perspective. We want them to be creative leaders.”

Change Starts at the Top

That expansion of expectations doesn’t just go for the marketers who work for Patrick. It’s true of his role as CMO as well, and for the leaders working for him. We were discussing the recent research on marketing strategy and leadership, which shows that marketers are being asked to do more in 11 different areas than they were just 5 years ago, and he saw exactly what our survey respondents did, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for technology and data. Here’s a piece of what he had to say about that:

Technology and data are things he feels leaders need to understand first-hand, not just have somebody else take care of. “The landscape changes so quickly that not only do you need some people on your team that are immersed in it and get it and are continuing to challenge the status quo. … But you yourself have to immerse yourself as a leader so that, first of all, you don’t personally get left behind, but also so you can understand what that technology can do.”

But even beyond MarTech and data, which are responsibilities I think everyone expects to have expanded, McLean sees other new and important facets to the role of marketing leader:

“The role of the chief marketing officer is so complex now, and there’s so many different dimensions to it,” said McLean. It “has evolved significantly in terms of the role they play across the business. And I think being a good relationship person, and being collaborative, and influencing across the organization is a really important role that the marketer plays.”

A Full ‘Stack’ Development

That applies all the way down the marketing personnel “stack” (to borrow the tech term we all use and respect so much).

When I was a young marketer growing up in the early part of my career, there were the functional disciplines of marketing, and you wanted to make sure you were learning all the aspects,” said McLean. “Fast forward to today … and in a lot of ways the role that analytics plays now, in particular, and the changing dynamics of customer behavior now, and they just demand that you have a really good sense of everything from analytics to strategy to creative.

The marketer used to be the person coming up with the advertising and maybe executing tactically on a few acquisition tactics. But in a  lot of ways, the marketer now is the driver of growth, the voice of the customer, the analytics leader, in a lot of ways, across the business to understand what’s going on in the market place. And I just think that responsibility to be all those things has never been more complex or more important.

How to Become a Marketing Unicorn

So that’s the view from the top of what marketers need to be able to do today. But managing your own career, how can you build those hard and soft skills to become a rare and in-demand Marketing Unicorn? Here was some of McLean’s advice for that:

“We’re looking for unicorns these days,” he said. So, “think about what it would take to turn yourself into a unicorn, at least directionally.”

Patrick went on to describe how he developed his own unicorn skills (Should we call it his “horn”? Maybe not.) and the techniques he used are more like what you see tech workers doing than what you’d traditionally do in marketing. He went out of his way to work in companies and on projects that would give him the skills he needed to develop:

What I did early in my career is I got into an e-commerce role. I took on roles that challenged me from a technology perspective … And having done that, first of all, I had a passion for it. And second of all, I gained an appreciation early for the value of it. I would encourage anybody to do a tour of duty in one of those jobs, whether it’s completely in your wheelhouse or not. Whether you work for your digital team, or get into a product development kind of job where you’re forced to get into technology and forced to understand it.

Patrick also advised ambitious marketers to develop their understanding of business strategy.

“While I’ve always been relatively confident and engaged in marketing strategy,” he said “I think what’s changed for me [as a CMO] has been elevating my game to the point where I’m connecting marketing strategy and business strategy, and therefore influencing business strategy. And that’s been an eye-opener for me.”

That was a challenge at first, and something he had to work on. He closed that gap by spending more and more time with business leaders across the bank.

“Again, it’s this idea of getting out of your functional positions and becoming more a part of the broader business leadership team that’s driving the business forward. And when you move into a chief marketing officer type seat, that becomes the expectation. So the more you can think that way earlier in your career, the better equipped you’re going to be when you get there; and I would say the more likely that you’re going to wind up in one of those seats.”

While some of that may sound daunting, it opens up a lot of opportunities for marketers to move up and into more rewarding positions in the company.

“It makes it that much more fun, too, honestly,” he said. “You’re not just playing your position, but I think we all should be aspiring to move the business forward and lean into it.”

If you to hear more of Patrick McLean’s advice on building your career and becoming a marketing leader, you can click here to see the compete interview on demand over at AADM.

How are you working to develop your own career? What advice would you give to more junior marketers coming up themselves? Let me know in the comments.

How AI and Blockchain Will Transform Marketing, Just Like the Internet Before It

In 1995, the Internet was widely considered to be a fad, but businesses that failed to evolve and adapt to a new digital world quickly disappeared. Could the combination of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and cryptocurrencies be about to revolutionize marketing in the same way?

After recently watching a clip of a Bill Gates appearance on the David Letterman show in 1995, I was reminded of how our fear of technological change has altered very little in the last 28 years. As the Microsoft leader desperately tried to convey how the Internet would transform everything, both Letterman and the audience laughed and mocked the Microsoft founder.

It’s hard to imagine that in 1995, the Internet was widely considered to be a fad, but businesses that failed to evolve and adapt to a new digital world quickly disappeared. Substantial household names vanished from our lives almost overnight, but we all thought that they were too big to fail.

Here in 2018, we are witnessing the same attitudes towards artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and cryptocurrencies. However, make no mistake: These technologies will continue to evolve at breakneck speed and will transform every industry including marketing.

Sure, we are in the very early stages at the moment and only just beginning to comprehend the art of the possible. But as these advances in technology continue, every aspect of our world will change forever, and those that fail to keep up with the pace will quickly experience a fate similar to Blockbuster video.

Artificial Intelligence

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang recently advised that “software is eating the world, but AI Is going to eat software.” But what does this mean for the marketing industry?

We are now living in a digital age where companies are automating how we discover products and services. Anyone who has used Spotify, Amazon, or Netflix will testify how personalized recommendations based on our engagement automatically raises their expectation levels. As a result, marketers will increasingly face pressure to tailor their product recommendations based on their consumers’ purchase history and reviews.

When I open my eyes in the morning, my first action is reaching for my phone to see how many generic emails I can delete, and I know that I am not the only one. AI solutions are already making it possible to offer hyper-personalized ads based on the individual preferences of users and serve them in the right context without being creepy, and right now, they are most relevant.

When this becomes the standard, what happens to marketers who cling to the generic campaigns from the past? Contrary to popular opinion, technology is not dehumanizing us at all; it is actually forcing marketers to treat customers as unique individuals rather than page views and clicks. This can only be a great thing, right?

Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

Make no mistake: Blockchain and cryptocurrencies will transform the world as we know it. But you might be thinking, how will it impact marketing? Although it will take time for businesses to adapt and use the technology, it has the potential to eradicate intermediaries.

In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, users will have an opportunity to determine how much personal information they reveal in a new era of social responsibility. As a result, advertisers and marketers will need to earn trust rather than take it for granted.

There are already multiple marketing and advertising startups appearing in the blockchain space.  A new approach to tokenize user behavior through a cryptocurrency and create a new credit system to unite advertisers and the consumer could completely remove the need for middlemen that provide little in terms of value.

When thinking about the art of the possible, blockchain could easily enable brands to build trust directly with their customers. Could this pave the way for businesses to be less reliant on tech behemoths such as Google and Facebook? Only time will tell.

Tech, The Problem Solver

The marketing industry has a long list of problems that emerging technology could quickly remove. Whether it is payment processing, fraud prevention, measurement, or reporting, we can expect everything to become simplified and in many cases automated.

Technology is bringing greater trust and transparency to the global marketplace across every industry. Marketing is just a small part of this huge digital transformation of everything.

Ask yourself: What are the most significant pain points in marketing? What aspects of the current ecosystem are no longer fit for a digital age? And what value are complex processes or third-parties providing your business? These are the areas that technology will eradicate over the next five years.

As consumers, we can access anything our heart desires with a few swipes of our smartphone. We are all taking these expectations into the world of B2B and demanding the same level of experience. Those that fail to make it easier to do business and remove friction points will quickly fall out of favor.  So, isn’t it time that you embraced technological change rather than fear it?

The 3 Big Challenges Marketers Face When Building a Marketing Tech Arsenal

It’s household knowledge that digital technology is continuously disrupting the practice of marketing. New tools mean new capabilities to reach and engage with potential customers in new ways. An expanding number of platforms and devices makes the prospect of providing seamless customer experiences an ever more difficult task. Meanwhile more technologies dictate that marketing tech stack integrations are becoming more complex. Yet nimble and savvy marketing tech adoption is one of the key factors for staying competitive in any market, today and in the foreseeable future.

That’s not all to scare anyone. But it’s worth taking stock of the fact that marketers have a tall order in front of them when it comes to evaluating and implementing new digital marketing technologies.

There are a combination of factors that make marketing tech adoption difficult. The sheer volume of potential solutions means that sorting through the noise and finding those tools that are relevant to your business objectives is a time suck. That’s certainly a big one, but an undue amount of time has been spent in blog posts and at industry conferences shocking marketers with intricate vendor-scapes while other challenges may go overlooked.

In this post, we’ll evaluate some of the common hurdles marketers face when it comes to adopting and implementing new technologies and consider some ways they can overcome those hurdles. With a better understanding of exactly what the challenges are, in future posts we’ll dig further into developing a process for optimizing your tech stack and explore some of the key business objectives marketers are trying to address with technology in 2018.

Editor’s Note: This blog post marks the launch of FUSE Digital Marketing, a weekly newsletter (subscribe here) and annual VIP executive summit (learn more here) that explore the strategic adoption of marketing technologies. Both aim to dissect the modern martech stack and explore how the right technologies can enable marketers to achieve business objectives.

Challenge #1: Omnichannel Customer Experiences Are Complicated by Content, Data & Technology

The vast array of devices and platforms where customer touchpoints occur mean that the need for marketers to provide seamless, omnichannel customer experiences is both more important and more challenging than ever. Doing so requires a well-oiled technology stack optimized for cross-platform data integration, 360° customer views, and AI-based automation that drives engaging content and offers.

But let’s dig a little deeper and uncover what’s at play when it comes to omnichannel marketing. Just how important is omnichannel marketing to marketers and what’s holding them back?

In the research report Omnichannel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience, Target Marketing asked marketers how important providing an omnichannel experience is in their industry. 74% of marketers said it was important, fairly important or very important. The research also revealed that most marketers are not confident in their ability to deliver omnichannel experiences: 48% feel their company provides customers and prospects an “average” omnichannel experience, while only 33% say it’s “good” or “very good.”

Beyond lack of budget, which is considered the number one challenge, marketers see omnichannel marketing as fundamentally a technology problem, with “accessing data across channels” and “recognizing a customer on different channels or devices” as high-ranking challenges they face in this effort. When asked what they are doing to improve omnichannel customer experience, marketers’ top two priorities are “improving integration of existing technology systems” and “investing in new tools and technology.”


To address omnichannel challenges, marketers are “improving integration of existing technology systems” and “investing in new tools and technology.”


To be fair, the quote-unquote “omnichannel customer experience” is not just a marketing objective — it’s the objective of anyone trying to provide consistent experiences across digital platforms and understand how audiences move and behave across those platforms. For years it’s been an objective (and thorn in the side) of publishing and media companies, which have large-scale audience and butter their bread by cultivating very granular information about these audiences.

The comparison to the media business can also be useful because it speaks to why omnichannel customer experiences have become simultaneously more difficult and more of an imperative. If omnichannel can be boiled down to two fundamental principles, those are experience and data.

First let’s look at experience: With content as a major form of currency in the brand-customer relationship, the customer experience extends much further up the funnel today than in days past. It’s the reason why content marketing expert Robert Rose argues that marketers should be focusing on audience, and not customer conversion, when developing a content marketing strategy and supporting technologies.

Sticking with publisher analogy, the introduction of content can be both a gift and a curse: A gift because “audience” interactions with content reveal valuable granular data about buying interests and intentions, which can drive coveted personalization efforts that yield higher conversions. A curse because connecting behavioral data to an individual across platforms is no easy task.

It’s no surprise then that we’re seeing a lot of interest in identity management, journey tracking, and anti-journey-hijacking solutions to keep track of users, as well as tools like CDPs that enable a 360-degree view of known users and the ability to develop user profiles enriched by behavioral data. Analytics tools that extract further insights, especially AI-driven predictive capabilities, will continue their growth in popularity.

Of course, limitations on data-driven marketing like GDPR will alter the data exchange between brands and consumers, namely by raising the threshold for that exchange. GDPR will simply accelerate the need for “owned” audiences that marketers have permission to communicate with (often earned by providing content), some of which will become your customers. And though painful at first, GDPR will actually play in favor of some marketers’ high-level concerns about brand safety and ad fraud when the brand-consumer relationship is much more transparent and explicit for all parties.

Challenge #2: Organizational Bureaucracy & Shadow MarTech

Unfortunately, developing a 360-degree view of customers from the topmost part of the funnel down to the purchase and onward isn’t just a technological challenge. It’s a deeply organizational challenge.

Marketers face a couple internal headwinds when it comes to technology adoption — such as the lack of understanding by senior management or lack of talent to apply martech — but perhaps the strongest is bureaucracy.

At many large companies, web technologies are part of gigantic enterprise systems that tend to be rigid and/or slowed by bureaucracy. Getting a WordPress site approved through corporate IT can be a nightmare. Especially when it comes to providing cutting edge customer experiences, marketers need to be super agile — able to stand up a blog, digital magazine, or microsite in short order — to respond the market or experiment with ideas without huge investments and long lead times.

Many marketers are forced to rely on their organization’s IT system and watch the nimble upstarts pass them by. Or they’re going rogue and creating what is often called a “shadow IT stack” or “shadow martech stack.”

Whether by design or by necessity, we know that martech purchasing happens across organizations. Target Marketing’s 2017 report The Marketing Tech Buying Process revealed that although brands are buying more marketing technology than ever, it’s often with minimal input from other departments. 64% of marketing technology purchases are made by individuals or single teams. Fewer than 50% of purchasers conduct formal requirements assessments. And the IT department is only involved in the marketing technology purchasing process 53% of the time.

One of the downsides of this fragmented martech buying approach is that the organization doesn’t reap the full benefit it would if the marketing stack and all its rich data was fully integrated with enterprise systems. Think of all the data points revealed through social media interactions, behavioral website data, email preferences – all of which can be used to track and cultivate consumers through the sales funnel and then continue engagement. And the existence of shadow martech stacks means companies aren’t seeing the optimal ROI, and as a result more likely to stifle future martech investments.

The Layered Approach to Marketing Tech Adoption

The layered approach to your content marketing tecnology stack.
Robert Rose advises a “layered approach” to the technology that powers content marketing in order to prioritize flexibility in the piece that must be more responsive to the customers, and formal input in the pieces that must integrate with other IT systems.


First off, marketers need to make the case and executives outside the marketing function need to recognize that marketing tech should be better integrated into enterprise systems without stifling the agility and flexibility that martech requires. Cross departmental communication and collaboration that might not have previously occurred are a necessity, but even more important, is a joined mission and strategy between marketing and IT.

To this end, Robert Rose suggests a “layered approach” to martech adoption. First, consider which parts of the tech stack need to be most flexible and require less dependability. These are the technologies that shouldn’t require as rigorous vetting nor be considered long-term, foundational technologies. “Content-driven experiences are today’s media buys: Flexible, lightweight and even disposable,” said Rose in his keynote at the FUSE Digital Marketing summit (then called FUSE Enterprise).

On the other hand, consider which parts of the tech stack need to be more thoroughly thought-out and approved, such as core data management technology that needs to be scalable, dependable and standardized, and fit into your company’s IT infrastructure. These need to be done methodically, involve all the stakeholders, and will likely be picked by the IT department, not marketers (though hopefully with apt input).

Challenge #3: Developing Tech Expertise

Another core challenge to martech adoption, and the closest to home, is that marketers themselves need a great understanding of the many technologies they could use and how they work together. However, being a technology expert is a relatively new competency for marketers and one that many may not have or are working to develop.  At the very least, marketers haven’t been preparing to be technologists their entire careers. “Being current on technology and able to put it into place with the right business processes to use effectively is now as important to the marketer as it is to someone in the IT department,” says Target Marketing editor-in-chief Thorin McGee. Or if not being a technology expert themselves, knowing enough to understand the underlying business objectives of a given tech tool and having a collaborative relationship with the technology department is a must for marketing executives today.

Once a technology is purchased, the common lament is that the tool is grossly underused. The Target Marketing Omnichannel report found that not enough marketers are investing in personnel or training to support their tech acquisitions. According to McGee, “This is evident both in the quantifiable questions, as well as the open response queries.  Marketers repeatedly cite lack of skilled personnel as an issue. Without proper training and know-how, the tools are not going to help. Invest in your people.”

Marketers should build more training into their martech strategies as well as implement more formalized processes (like Rose’s layered approach above), to ensure greater collaboration among key stakeholders and greater ROI for their tech investments.

In subsequent posts we’ll further explore processes for focusing your martech adoption strategy and look at specific business objectives marketers are keen to address with technology. Sign up for the weekly FUSE Digital Marketing newsletter to keep up on the latest martech insights.

Marketing Technology vs. Marketing Strategy

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

We are in an age when marketing technology can let us do amazing things, as you’ve seen me and all the editors and writers here on Target Marketing discuss many times. But they’re all tools, and even the best tool is only useful when you have a plan to use it.

Kids at Santa’s Workshop

It’s like when you were a little kid, and “Santa’s Workshop” came to school. Did you have these? The school would bring in a vendor to sell Christmas presents for the kids to buy for their families? (Come to think of it, it does seem a bit exploitative now that I type it out …)

Anyway, I remember one time seeing a tool that I thought looked so cool, so I bought it for my dad. It was this handheld thingy with slim little nails and a plastic tube with a magnet. The nails would go in the tube, and you’d push the top down to drive them. It looked so cool! But I had no idea what it did.

So I bought it for my dad anyway.

He smiled and accepted it, and I don’t think he used it once. In retrospect, it was probably for hanging wall paneling, which we never had.

How to Empower a Marketing Strategy

One of the things I’ve heard from multiple speakers heading into this show is that marketers sometimes buy technology a lot like I bought that nail thingamajig for my dad. They wind up with a cool looking tool, even when they don’t have a plan for how to use it.

And beyond the plan for how you’re going to use it, you need to have plans for how to integrate it into your marketing processes, train personnel to use it and plug it into your existing tech stack.

Tomorrow, All About Marketing Tech will introduce you to new marketing technologies — six of them, in fact — but also help you put together the marketing strategies that really determine what technology you should be investing in to begin with.

Andy Markowitz will talk about why marketers win or lose in the age of AdTech and MarTech convergence.

Jerry Bernhart will show you how to find the best marketing tech talent.

Peter Gillett will lead an international panel of experts on how the EU’s GDPR regulations will impact your tech stack.

Beerud Sheth will show you how to build an AI chatbot that doesn’t suck.

PLUS: Mitch Joel of Mirum, Rob Pinkerton of Morningstar, Samuel Monnie of Campbell’s Soup Company, Jonathan Levey of Flexjet and more!

So, if you want to know more about cutting edge marketing technologies, how companies are building strategies to be empowered by technology, how to find the people who have the skill and vision to use those tools, how to avoid one of the biggest fines your company would ever see and more, be sure to register for All About Marketing Tech, happening live from 10 AM to 3 PM EST tomorrow.

If marketing technology or strategy is a part of your job, or part of the job you want to have, you can’t afford to miss it.